NRW return award eSym EcoSystems Biology of a subsurface environment

The subsurface houses more than 100 million gigatons of carbon (mostly in form of carbonate) and represents the greatest resource of carbon on this planet. However, no climate change model considers this carbon reservoir, as it is believed not to be bioavailable. Our investigations of subsurface microbial communities, particularly those in high-CO2 and anaerobic environments, showed a high capacity for carbon fixation. In fact, this process sustains complex microbial communities, which span most of the known tree of life. In eSym, we are studying how carbon compounds in subsurface community are recycled between community members. We utilize state-of-the-art genome-resolved meta’omics methods by coupling genomes from metagenomes to isotopic lipid analyses and proteomics. Understanding carbon cycling in subsurface ecosystems will ultimately have profound implications on carbon climate change models.